What’s New?

www.bible.com/72/isa.43.19.hcsb

Are you in the winter doldrums? Stuck in the gray and the depressing that is constant winter storm and overcast clouds? Yeah, winter can be a pretty depressing time of year. You’ll get no argument from me. That’s why I keep a calendar of beaches from around the world to remind me that the sun is shining, somewhere.

The verse today is also such a reminder. When God have this message to Isaiah, Israel was in a funk. They had faced down Assyrian invasion and were getting beaten up by their neighbors. God has warned them continually to change their ways or they would be destroyed as a nation. It seemed pretty dark for a while. But then comes a promise of brighter days ahead. “I am about to do something new.” He was referring of course to the coming of His Son, something new indeed, for Jesus is absolutely unique. He is the only begotten Son of God, and there will not be another. In fact, the person of Jesus would be the first unique creation since the beginning, that combination of the eternal Second Person of God in unity with a created human being. God made flesh. This is something new.

And this was hope for a people besieged by darkness. This One would be light to them, and show them the Way to joy again. But the promise isn’t just to Israelites, but to you today. Jesus Christ is still the light to those trapped in darkness, especially the darkness of the soul.

I encourage you today to pray for light, both to clear the clouds away and to receive the light of the Son. Brighten your day with joy. Allow yourself to feel joy today. Let God in.

Sounds easy too easy, doesn’t it. It does. If you are waiting until you deserve it, you’ll never get it. No one deserves this kind of peace that God offers. You don’t. I don’t either. Instead, He doesn’t deal with us according to our worth. He deals with us according to His love. Yes, despite everything you’ve done, He still loves you. And He doesn’t just love us from afar, He sent His Son. He sent His Son into our world to demonstrate His love for us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may have everlasting life.” That’s what He offers you today, life! See what new thing He is bringing to you. Life, not death.

I want to encourage you today. Talk to Him. Shout at Him. Tell Him what is in your heart. Let it out so you can let Him in.

God bless you today.

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Where’s Jesus?

www.bible.com/72/col.3.1.hcsb

Love this verse today! What a refreshing peace it brings. Why? Because it answers the question, where’s Jesus?

Two men come up to the door. They knock. The door opens. The question: Have you found Jesus yet? The answer: I didn’t know He was lost. Modern evangelism often acts like a great game of where’s Waldo. The object of the game is to find Jesus and then surrender to Him like He’s the one that found you. It’s a little confusing. Have you found Jesus yet? Has Jesus found you?

So when I read this verse, I find out where Jesus has been hiding. And no wonder so many haven’t found Him. He’s hiding in a place we can’t go on our own. That’s not fair. He is seated at the right hand of God! We can’t find Him if He doesn’t play fair. But then He doesn’t play fair, does He? “He doesn’t punish us as our sins deserve.” He gives us grace and more grace, undeserved favor where we have not earned it.

That also means that if we seek Him, He tells us where He is. He calls us to direct our attention to heaven. He tells us to direct our prayers and worship to heaven, to the throne of grace. Jesus doesn’t hide from us so that we have to labor to find Him. He tells us exactly where He is. It’s not, “Have you found Jesus yet?” but “Since you know where He is, what will you do with Him?”

God bless you today!

Complicated?

www.bible.com/72/mat.16.24.hcsb

So Jesus’ instructions for discipleship are actually extremely simple: deny self, take up cross, and follow Him. I have heard these three explained away on many occasions to attempt to mystify them and make them palatable for Western affluent ears. But what does Jesus want? He wants you to deny yourself. This is not some mystical psychological mix of self-love and other-love. This is Jesus saying make Him your priority. Put Jesus as the top of the list. Who is sitting here already, well usually it is self. And self needs to take a back seat.

Take up your cross. A cross is an instrument of execution. It is not pretty. It is not nice. It was the sign of Roman oppression on the Jewish state. Crosses were not Jewish, nor sanctioned by the law. Anyone who was hung (even by nails) was considered cursed. The cross is a sign of separation. You are no longer Jews. You take up the symbol of oppression big to show your dedication (willing to die) and your identification with Christ.

Follow Me. Following Jesus may be physically impossible, for His physical presence is no longer with us. But we can follow His authentic teachings in the New Testament. He is not saying to follow some mystical path to enlightenment. He intends for us to follow His lead, through the cross (baptism) into new life. He intends for us to imitate Him and know the Word. And there is no end to pool of this knowledge.

Discipleship isn’t hard to follow, but it is hard to do. But I encourage you today to take up the cross, even if it’s a literal cross, and follow the Lord Jesus.

By the way, I keep a cross around my neck for this purpose. It reminds me whose I am and Who I am for.

God bless!

Sweet Baby Jesus

bible.com/72/isa.7.14.hcsb

so I am flipping through channels last night and come across Will Ferrell’s “The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”, his humorous foray into NASCAR culture. He affected a southern drawl and perfectly blended into the character. I loved Elf, and hoped this would be a similar experience. Well, it was different.

But the highlight for me was the scene where the family sits down to a lunch of domino’s pizza, Taco Bell and KFC. The wife insists that Ricky say grace. He proceeds to pray, seeking blessing and further racing wins from “sweet baby Jesus”, which when challenged, said that he preferred the baby Jesus. His wife and father-in-law both insisted that Jesus had grown up, even had a beard. Ricky would have none of it. He said that baby Jesus was his favorite version of Jesus.

Wow.

And that is Christmas in a nutshell, isn’t it? How many songs have been written, sung, even performed about the baby Jesus versus the risen Jesus? Do we decorate, celebrate, and dedicate so much time and effort to the risen Lord as we do the baby Jesus? Who is your favorite Jesus? Though I’ve seen it addressed here and there, here it is in a secular movie that the issue is brought out, the ridiculousness of it. Yes, come, let us adore Him, let us acknowledge that God’s plan included sending His own Son into the world as a helpless child, so that that child would grow up, live a sinless life, and be executed in the most cruel and humiliating fashion ever devised.

Come, let us adore the One who took the punishment for sin, who endured the wrath of a righteous God for the sins of the world. Let us adore One who loved so much that He died to save us. Let us adore One who loved us more than life.

The angels sang over Him. The shepherds and wise men came to adore Him. His mother marveled over Him. The teachers and scribes were astonished at Him. The Sadducees and Pharisees feared Him. His disciples followed Him. His Father was well-pleased with Him. The Greeks sought Him. Tax Collectors and Prostitutes welcomed Him. His apostles worshipped Him, for “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” What will you do?

O come let us adore Him, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Not Seeing is Still Believing

bible.com/72/1pe.1.8-9.hcsb

Have you ever seen Jesus? Most of us have to be content with the apostolic witness of the New Testament, and by most I mean everybody who has been alive since Jesus’ first coming. As Jesus once told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” Peter reaffirms this here. One day we will ultimately be saved to heaven and meet Him personally. This is not to say that we aren’t already saved through faith in Christ in the present. But our salvation will be made complete when “we shall see Him as He is.” I’m looking forward to that day, aren’t you?

No Change

bible.com/72/heb.13.8.hcsb

Do you hate change? I do. I like being able to rely on the aisles at Walmart being the same every time I go so that I can find stuff I need. Like last night, I went back to the electronics department to look for a WiFi usb stick for my wife. I used to know where to look. It took me longer this time because they had completely CHANGED the department. I was annoyed. I had to ask a sales associate where to find it. I knew where it was supposed to be, but they had changed. Not so with Jesus. If you are looking for peace or hope of grace today. You can still find it, because it is right where you will be looking for it, in Jesus Christ. He never changes.

Infinite Yearning

bible.com/72/ecc.3.11.hcsb

Where does natural human curiosity come from? It seems that everyone has this yearning for the infinite, a wonder that reaches beyond their five senses into the what if? It is a lack of contentment with all that we are because we feel a great pit within us waiting to be filled with something. We try to fill it with many things, money, power, relationships, but nothing fits. Nothing is big enough.

Ancient cultures tried to fill it with inventions of gods and goddesses, trying to explain a much bigger picture of the world around them, but those were all corruptions. Few remembered the beginning. There were some that did, but they seemed reluctant to share with Gentiles. It wasn’t until someone they raised and taught, a perfect child so they thought, who would declare that His message was for all. So they fought, arrested, and killed Him. But He was too good to die, and didn’t stay that way. He rose from the dead and declared to all when he said, God has sent His Son into the world to die so that they might live.

That great yearning for eternity can only and should only be filled by the grace, mercy and love that come through Jesus Christ. Come and be filled.